Law firm Migrate UK says companies are struggling to recruit foreign workers

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Almost 97% of UK employers are still unable to sponsor EU or non-EU workers despite the talent shortage, according to Abingdon-based immigration law firm Migrate UK.

The latest government data analyzed by the firm reveals that only 3.5% of UK employers currently hold a license to sponsor EU or non-EU workers, despite a widespread shortage of skilled and unskilled migrant workers across the country.

With unemployment now at its lowest level since 1974 according to the latest figures from the ONS, many organizations – from large limited companies to private companies – are still not using sponsorship licenses to facilitate recruitment.

This is despite the fact that for the vast majority of workers in the EU, employers must hold a Home Office sponsorship license to employ them after Brexit.

Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK, based in Abingdon, said: “Our analysis of government data on active businesses revealed that there are 1.4 million private sector employers in the UK.

“While the government’s own list of currently registered sponsors shows that only around 50,000 are licensed, meaning only around 3.5% are currently able to employ newcomers from the EU or not from the EU.

“Surprisingly, since our last pre-Brexit analysis in May 2020, there has only been an increase of around 1.5% in the number of sponsorship license holders among businesses – although this was the biggest change to the UK immigration system in nearly 45 years.

“When new clients come to us, they often say they delayed this process due to the perceived cost, complexity and amount of paperwork required to do so.”

“This is not just worrying for individual UK businesses that have enough talent to deliver products and services effectively, but also for UK plc. We hear day after day about the problems companies face in recruiting enough staff, especially in the hospitality, science and engineering sectors.

“With the Home Secretary returning less than a week after stepping down from his previous post, some businesses may be living in hopes of some of the changes hinted at in the shortage occupations list in the coming weeks, the problem The key – in addition to including ‘less’ skilled professions such as social workers or chefs – is that this list is no longer as attractive as it once was for employers.

“To really benefit from this list, certain jobs should be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge (between £364 and £1,000 per year of sponsorship, paid by the employer), plus the costs of the NHS Surcharge (between £470 and £624 per person per year), normally paid by the employee, so this is an important undertaking for overseas recruits, particularly for lower paid roles.

With sponsor license applications currently taking an average of two to three months to process, Migrate UK advises companies with persistent skills shortages to apply now for a sponsor license to support their recruitment.

Once a company has a license in place, it can be used as needed. While for potential applicants overseas, employers who already have a license will be more attractive than companies without one – as they know the company is already approved by the Home Office for a maximum of four years at a time*, and this will minimize delays in their integration .

“Businesses with a license are not only able to recruit more easily now to help tackle their current skills shortages, but will also be better prepared when the economy picks up following the current challenges in the UK and across the world,” Jonathan said.

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